Dallas High School Students Get First-hand Look at Special Session

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The Pennsylvania Superior Court came to Dallas High School on Tuesday for a special session, giving students the opportunity to hear cases before a three-judge panel.

Mark Moran / The Citizens' Voice Students at Dallas Senior High School listen as justices from the Pennsylvania Superior Court hold a special session at the school.

Mark Moran / The Citizens’ Voice Students at Dallas High School listen as justices from the PA Superior Court hold a special session Tuesday morning at the school.

Attorney Joseph Saporito, president of the Wilkes-Barre Law and Library Association, called it a “momentous event in Luzerne County.” Dallas High School senior Peter Kuritz called it a “once -in-a-lifetime experience.”

“It’s not every day you get to see the Superior Court come to your school,” Kuritz said. “It’s not every day you get to see a judicial branch in action.”

Presiding Judge Jack A. Panella, Judge Sallie Updyke Mundy and Judge William H. Platt heard a number of appeals cases. Significant media and public interest prompted moving the cases of the Commonwealth vs. Gerald Sandusky, Michael Veon and Hernan Torres to the Luzerne County Courthouse.

Typically, the Pennsylvania Superior Court session would be held in Harrisburg, but Panella pointed out it is not always easy for citizens to travel there.

“We do this for access and we do it for education,” Panella said. “The president judges of the Superior Court like us at times to sit off-site to enable us to mingle a little with the community and to educate the community about what we do.”

A special ceremony was held to honor veterans before the arguments at Dallas High School. AMVETS Honor Guard Post 189 of Greater Pittston participated.

The ceremony had a lineup of speakers that included Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Correale F. Stevens, of Drums. Luzerne County President Judge Thomas F. Burke Jr. and Lackawanna County President Judge Thomas J. Munley talked about their service in the Vietnam War. Students also watched a video featuring attorney Jack Zelinka, who is currently stationed at the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Prior to the session, Stevens told the students the cases they would hear involved real people with real problems.

“In court, sometimes we hear what we call ‘frivolous’ cases and they get thrown out of court,” he said.

Stevens pointed out in the television show, “The Walking Dead,” there are no laws and zombies are walking around. When there are no laws, people take things from other people and shoot other people, he said.

“Today, you’re going to see what the law is,” Stevens told students.

Dallas School District Superintendent Frank Galicki told students, “We are so lucky to have this experience.”

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